There’s a lot of action going on in the Comments (see fine print at the end of each post) on To Tell the Truth. For one thing, you’ll find a choice little bibliography of books on writing. For another, DJE suggested a poem by Emily Dickinson so apt that I’m adding it right here:
Tell all the Truth but tell it slant-
Success in Circuit lies
Too bright for our infirm Delight
The Truth’s superb surprise
As Lightning to the Children eased
With explanation kind
The Truth must dazzle gradually
Or every man be blind-
The truth must dazzle gradually — Emily Dickinson was under no illusions about human nature and frailties.
Now, you can stop reading right here, with those spare wonderful words ringing in your brain; or you can go on (and I hope you do) to hear a serendipitous example of the saying, What I tell you two times is true. (Often quoted about the Talmud, where things of particular importance are repeated.)
I have to confess, I had never heard of this particular poem until DJE called it to my attention. But in the way these things happen, once I noticed it, then of course I immediately encountered it a second time, in a formidable book called Proust and the Squid, by Maryanne Wolf. It’s subtitled: The Story and Science of the Reading Brain, so you have an idea.
Anyway, only a few dozen pages in, she challenges us to read a passage from Proust about a single day in his childhood, and after having done so, to examine how Proust’s words led you into your own thinking and personal insights. And then she writes:
“I cannot, of course, describes where your thoughts went, but I can describe mine. Because I had just visited an exhibit at the Boston Museum of Fine Arts on Monet and impressionism, I found myself connecting how Proust wrote about a single day in his childhood with how Monet painted Impression: Sunrise. Both Proust and Monet used pieces of information to render a composite that made a more vivid impression than if they had created a perfect reproduction. In so doing, both artist and novelist are examples of Emily Dickinson’s enigmatic charge to ‘tell all the Truth, but tell it slant —-/Success in Circuit lies’.”
How neat is that?